When it comes to arts education, it seems every time there’s a bit of good news (see Chance the Rapper), there’s some bad news to balance it out (yeah, we’re talking about Donald Trump’s plan to abolish the National Endowment for the Arts). 

In reporting on the Trump budget, we mentioned that many groups rely on the National Endowment for the Arts for funding — one of those, Washington, D.C.’s The MusicianShip, isn’t waiting around to see which way the funding battle goes. Like any nonprofit, The MusicianShip has several streams of funding. This week, it added one more: a dope clothing collection.

Photo: Laura Metzler

The founder and CEO of the organization, Jeffery Tribble, sat down with Blavity to talk about the importance of the arts amidst the present political environment, the role of art in the community, and, of course, his new collection.

“Through after-school programs and also through summer programs,” Tribble told us, The MusicianShip delivers “music lessons, experiences and opportunities for primarily at-risk youth.”

Music, and the arts in general, can be a powerful force for good according to Tribble. A musician himself, he stressed that while the musical training The MusicianShip provides is valuable, its true mission is to improve his students’ “life trajectory generally, getting them into college, getting them off the street, getting them jobs.”

What does music have to do with college and getting off the street you ask? Tribble traces the realization that music has the ability to completely transform a life back to his own childhood on Chicago’s South Side. He found there that “growing up in a good home wasn’t enough of a shield” against “getting into things that you really shouldn’t otherwise get into.”

“It was me being involved in positive programs and really, really being keyed in on something that could hone a lot of my socio-emotional skills like discipline and my self-esteem and my confidence” that led him down his current path, Tribble said, and The MusicianShip grew out of “just wanting to help young people who were similarly situated.”

And Tribble has. The MusicianShip has an impressive track record of success. The CEO told us, “Every student who’s been in our program for at least two years has graduated from high school. 100 percent of the students who have auditioned for music scholarships have received music scholarships. 100 percent of students who have applied to college and universities have been accepted.”

All those wonderful numbers don’t come cheaply, and at least a portion of the organization’s funding is in peril due to the Trump administration’s proposal. “One of our biggest funders, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, put out a policy memorandum,” Tribble said, “Saying that this cut is going to take about three percent of their budget.”

Three percent may not sound like a lot, but think about this: three percent of $1 million is $30,000. That’s a yearly salary.

Tribble expressed frustration with the proposed cuts, lamenting, “There are already budget cuts at the local and federal levels to arts programs directly in schools, but to then to cut the programs that help to undergird the school systems’ programs and that kind of serve as a catch-basin to assist for the lack of arts programming and funding that’s already there, it’s tremendously more detrimental and it really disallows our young people to receive the arts programming that they deserve.”

Whether or not the loss of federal funding happens, The MusicianShip is ready. Fundraising is fundamental in the nonprofit sector, and this week, the organization unveiled new merchandise, the sale of which Tribble said, “goes 100 percent to supporting our summer and after-school programs.” 

Photo: Laura Metzler

“I just had this idea of wanting to engage urban millennial music enthusiasts — not just musicians, but folks who just love music generally — with a clothing line,” Tribble said of the new set of shirts, “and I felt like doing it through The MusicianShip was the best way to go as it would help to raise money for the kids that we serve and the free-of-charge programs that we run in inner-city schools.”

If you want to help the youth of Washington, if you want to do your part to support arts education, if you want to express your love of music while looking fly — you can purchase one of The MusicianShip’s shirts on their site.

Photo: Laura Metzler